James Newton Howard

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

How to compete in a saturated market

My friend Daniel, who’s an amazing artist and long time reader of Intellimusica, recently posted this question to me:

How do you deal with the enormous competition of all the young artists online?

I mean, nowadays it’s incredibly easy to get your work out there — tons and tons of people share there work online. Some of the quality is low, but there’s a lot of great artists as well. Do you ever feel like there’s too much out there for you to come up with something special, interesting, or unique?

That’s a great question. Personally, I deal with competition by not dealing with it at all. It’s very easy because I dislike finger-style guitar music.

That may sound like a crazy admission from a primarily “finger-style guitarist” — but my intention is not to play like a traditional finger-style guitarist at all. I’m a fan of music, first and foremost. Especially emotive music that can move an individual.

I usually find this type of music paired with movies, so that explains the abundance of film score work on this blog. Film lends immediate context, so the music is much more heartfelt.

I like composer, Gustavo Santaolalla’s guitar playing because it’s minimalist — and the best possible use of a stringed instrument in the context of a movie score. His guitar (or ronroco in most cases) is used solely to affect the listener, and not to ingratiate the instrumentalist.

Intellimusica began as a convoluted experiment where I wanted to bring that style of ego-less guitar playing to other pieces of music — especially from movies. That why most of the stuff on Intellimusica is relatively easy to play. 

Gustavo Santaolalla gets his point across with delicate finger picking, so I like that approach with everything I do on Intellimusica.

The end result is: I prefer my unique approach above anyone else’s. As self-absorbed as that sounds, my aversion to typical YouTube finger-style guitar has allowed me to focus totally on myself, and ignore the competition.

Don’t get me wrong, I like other guitar players — they’re just not in the realm of Intellimusica whatsoever. My favorites are everyone from The Edge to Jimmy Page. I go through intense phases of Clapton, Slash, Jonny Greenwood, Malcolm Young, etc. You name the guitarist, I’ve been obsessed.

However, my affinity for my own style, allows me to totally ignore the fact that I’m competing for attention and viewers in a maze of a billion online guitar players. In addition to the fact that it would be maddening to compare yourself with random individuals from all over the world.

Guitarists can suffer from dysmorphia like any person who is prone to feeling inadequate. In the same why that dietitians say to get rid of the scale, it’s highly advisable to not compare yourself with other YouTube guitarists.

So, if you’re an artist, musician, or creator — my advice is to focus solely on your artistic influences, and the quality of your own product. Completely ignore the competition. You can’t create your own definitive style if you’re focused on anyone else. No one is better at being you, than you.

(Note: The Mockingjay is my premium content.)

How to play James Newton Howard’s The Mockingjay for classical guitar

The Mockingjay is composer, James Newton Howard’s central theme for the latest iteration of The Hunger Games. It’s an incredible piece of music that oscillates the same chord progression with different bass notes — then rotates the same bass line with different chords underneath.

The architecture of the song is very interesting. It’s fascinating to listen to the original orchestral piece, that see how it breaks down onto a single instrument. Although The Mockingjay is relatively easy to pay, it’s a highly sophisticated and refined piece of music.

I liken it to a Radiohead song. You only truly realize it”s genius until you get in and play it on guitar. Then it’s like, how’d they come up with that?

The guitar tab for The Mockingjay is straightforward and only two pages long. It’s one of the prettier looking tabs I’ve drawn up, as everything is spaced out just right to imbue a sense of timing.

Enjoy the tab is available below:

The Mockingjay is tuned one whole step down. Your tuning will look like this from low to high: D G C F A D.

The Mocking Jay for classical guitar

Written by:

Matthew's dad, Jennifer's husband, bass player - New Invisible Joy, YouTuber, film composer - Broken Noons, creator of modern content for guitar.